600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

PLANNING for the Camino de Santiago

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Following the publication of my article “Walking through Spain” in Singapore’s Straits Times Life! on 2nd September 2008, I have received emails from readers who are interested to make this journey as well. I would like to thank the editors of ST Life! who have chosen to feature this story, because it is my hope that more people will discover the transformational experience of walking pilgrimage. Here, I would like to share my response to some of the questions posed, so that more people can benefit. The Internet has a wealth of information, so here are a few links to help you get started!

To plan for the trip, you will need to consider the following:
i) When should I go?
ii) Where should I begin?
iii) How do I get there?
iv) What should I pack?
v) How can I get a pilgrim’s passport?
(You can also get them at pilgrim’s office where you start)

To help you answer these questions you can refer to the section on "Planning" on CSJ website. It is very helpful.

I found back the link of this interactive planner, which is amazingly programmed. You can select where you want to start and end, and the program will show you an image of the distance and elevation of the entire route. I would disregard the albergues/hotels indicated along the route, since they are probably outdated. The elevation map will give you a good idea of the climbs and descents you need to make on the road. There is also an interactive satellite map.

The cost of the trip will depend on the when you go, and length of time you walk. For an estimate, here are the few things you will need to factor into your budget:
i) International flight cost (e.g. Singapore - Paris/Barcelona/London)
ii) Regional and local flight/train costs (e.g. Paris to St. Jean Pied-de-Port)
iii) Daily accommodation and food. Accommodation could range from private hotels to public hostels. Food could include self-cooked meals in hostel kitchens or pilgrims' menu at restaurants. From independent sources, daily expenses (food + accommodation) are estimated to be approximately 25 Euros in France and 16 Euros in Spain (source: CSJ).
iv) In addition, there are pre-trip expenses to get the right backpack, walking boots, walking sticks, lightweight clothing, mountain wear.

BOOTS, PACK, & other equipment
For trekking boots, some of the good brands I know of are: Merrell, Salomon, Northface, Lowa. You should look at boots meant for mountain trekking and long walking. To decide on what is a good pair of boots (which is the most important equipment to invest in) is comfort (cushion inside), good grip at the soles, ankle support (for steep slopes), lightweight, and waterproof (e.g. Gortex). Shoes that can breathe better will be helpful. I also personally recommend wearing two pairs of socks (one thick, one thin). Thick one is for cushioning and thin one is for cooling the feet better. Do try your new boots with socks on before you buy to test the size. Also bear in mind that our feet gets engorged after walking long distance - so having the right amount of space

For backpack, especially for ladies, it's important to get a lightweight one, and not too big. My 35litre pack works well for me.
Here's a link I just found that talks about how to fit and pack your backpack.

For sleeping bag, I got mine at the Beach road market where they sell lots of army stuff. Lightweight and warmth are important factors to consider. You should check the temperature range the bags are made for.

For walking sticks, it's helpful to have two lightweight ones, like those for skiing. I bought mine only the day before I walked, because I saw many pilgrims/hikers using two. When I asked why, they said it's for balancing and rhythm. True enough, I did not regret having two, although there are some who go without or go with one. It's a personal choice.

In terms of where to shop in Singapore, I went to Novena Mall (sports stores), Paragon (e.g. World of Sports, Planet Traveller), Campers' Corner ( to get my gears. But I recommend looking at outdoor, camping specialist retail stores you can find, since there might be new ones or those I missed.

I would like to recommend the guidebook: "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago - Camino Frances" by John Brierley (new lightweight edition). It is very well-illustrated and comprehensive. It was the only guidebook I relied on. However, do make sure that you get the most updated edition/information.

Depending on your nationality and passport, visa requirements might differ. For Singaporeans, we do not need a visa to enter Spain or the EU as tourists. We can enter Spain or France without a visa and stay for up to 90 days in any 6-month period. Source

The safety of a single female walking the road was one of my major concerns when I decided to go. It has been very safe for females to make this trip alone, and I have seen many women walking alone. They range from 16 years old to 70s. If one takes precaution, she would be safe as anywhere else. Here is a link to a forum thread on this issue.

Here are also a couple videos, by pilgrims who walked before and with me, which inspired me to get on the road. Hope they inspire you as well:
1) Sharleen Tan
2) Thomas Meredith (see parts 1-3)
3) My videos
How many people have done it? Where are they from? (note: information from an albergue only)



I hope this is a good starting point for your own research.
It is a privilege to be called to the road….Buen Camino!

Denise Chng Lisan
September 2008

The information published on this website is provided for the convenience of its visitors and you are advised that, although care has been taken to ensure factual accuracy, some errors may occur. No guarantee is given of the accuracy or completeness of information on these pages. The author shall have no liability arising from the use by any party of or reliance on the information provided herein. The incorporation of any links to other sites is for your convenience and reference only and does not imply that the author approves or endorses the contents of that site or the material available from it. The author does not control and is not responsible for the content of any such sites in terms of their accuracy, suitability, legality or otherwise.

13 Response to 'PLANNING for the Camino de Santiago'

  1. Sylvia Said,'> 3 September 2008 at 17:22

    Hi Denise!

    I read the ST article and i just want to say congrats on completing the pilgramage!

    I'm a brand consultant and i found out that you used to be a brand valuation consultant. I'm so glad you made the decision to do this. You give a lot of us inspiration. Keep up what you're doing. Please keep up posted.

    Cheers, Sylvia


  2. Denise Said,'> 3 September 2008 at 20:44

    Dear Sylvia,

    Thanks for your note of encouragement!
    If you would like to leave me an email, I'd love to connect with you.

    Look forward to hear from you,


  3. alkie_traveller Said,'> 4 September 2008 at 09:19

    Hi Denise,

    Read your article in the Straits Times and you truly inspired me. Am thinking of doing the Camino too but I am not a Christian, is this an issue or concern?


  4. Denise Said,'> 5 September 2008 at 07:33

    Hi alkie traveller,

    The Camino, although originated from Christianity, is not restricted to only Christians. Anyone can walk the path, if they choose to. The fact that you are not a Christian is not an issue nor concern at all. There are many walkers who are not there for religious reasons. They walk for reasons of the physical challenge, self-discovery, spiritual search etc.

    I hope you discover the Camino in due time.


  5. Anonymous Said,'> 22 September 2008 at 20:29

    Hey Denise,

    My email's

    Look forward to hearing back from you!



  6.'> 2 October 2008 at 18:31


    You may find this of interest :) -

    A journey along an ancient pilgrimage route in Northern Spain.

    One man, plenty of baggage, searching for spiritual and mystical truths along El Camino de Santiago de Compostela ( the way of st james)

    Release date Tuesday 28th October




  7. Elena Said,'> 5 October 2008 at 17:50

    Hi Denise

    Your article really inspired my husband, cousin and myself! We'll be going on the camino in Nov. I wish we'd have the time and stamina to go for the month long camino, but it's too late to train for that now and we'll have to start from Sarria/Lugo this time round!



  8. Denise Said,'> 7 October 2008 at 09:47

    Hi Elena

    That's good to hear. =) I hope you three have a great time on the road. Nov could get rather chilly, so do wear enough!

    Buen Camino!


  9. nomad@heart Said,'> 10 October 2008 at 10:57

    inspiring...amazing courage to abandon your former urban trappings in pursuit of your heart's desires and dreams, and new-found reality....and now living a liberated, fulfiling life.....sans the trappings..
    ....freed from the fear and disillusion, uncertainty that is now the reality for many.

    your blog inspires, I am looking to (and working toward) the day I take the leap of faith to pursue my
    own dreams and reality as I would want....


  10. Denise Said,'> 14 October 2008 at 12:38


    thanks for your note. I think we are all nomads @ heart to varying degrees. The liberty that we seek is innate in us, though we are often trapped in someway or other to discover that we already have it. I like the words 'leap of faith', because it is what it is - a leap into the unknown. It sometimes feel like a scary free fall into never-ending darkness. Maybe that's why not everyone wants to be free, really.

    I wish for you too the light and the courage to do what you need to do. =)



  11. Anonymous Said,'> 3 February 2009 at 07:35

    Hi Denise,

    kok thong here! Rem the good old france days...

    Wow... you have been writing, that's good for you!

    hope to get in touch with you but
    can't find your email so i will leave mine so that you can send me your email

    kok thong


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